It’s impossible to visit Israel and walk the paths that Jesus walked without also confronting the current issues there. In addition to bringing scripture to life for us, our recent journey will also give me a greater interest in and hopefully, a better understanding of the news from that part of the world.
Early on the morning of Monday, January 25th, we set off for Metula, the northernmost town in Israel. This quiet agricultural community, set amongst orchards of apples, pears, peaches, nectarines, apricots, kiwifruit and lychees, sits just inside the border with Lebanon. Standing at a viewpoint on the edge of town, we peered through a razor wire fence and watched UN vehicles on patrol. Around the corner was a preschool with bullet holes in its windows from Lebanese snipers! All seems to be quiet at the moment, however, and tourism rivals agriculture as the community’s economic base.
Later in the day, after visiting two amazing Biblical sites that will be the focus of my next post, we climbed high into the Golan Heights, a rocky plateau seized from Syria in the final stages of the 1967 Six-Day War. It was here that we discovered that it does indeed snow in Israel! Apparently, it’s not unusual to see it on the upper slopes of Mount Hermon, but there was several inches on the ground in the Druze village where we stopped for lunch.
The Druze are an Arabic speaking ethnic and religious minority group found mostly in Lebanon, Syria and northern Israel. With no country of their own, they form a close-knit, cohesive community but also integrate fully into their adopted homelands and are intensely loyal to them.
It was only when we exited the occupied territory again that we began to get a sense of what living in a land like Israel might do to one’s psyche. Though we felt no danger at all, our beloved guide, Shimon Zemer, told us that every time he crosses the border back into Israel proper, he breathes a sigh of relief and is able to relax again.
Before returning to Tiberias, we made one more stop, a visit to an Israeli Defense Forces base. Every Jew in Israel, over the age of 18, with the exception of those with a criminal record and the ultra-Orthodox Jews (as Shimon would say, “we shall talk about that later”) are required to serve in the army, males for three years and females for two.
The base that we visited is a supply centre where tanks, vehicles and supplies of all kinds are kept in readiness should war break out. We were shown one of 30 supply rooms filled with backpacks, each one already packed with clothing in the correct size for a specific soldier. The men in our group were especially fascinated with the tanks that we were shown, especially one, perhaps the most powerful in the world, that can travel 80 to 90 km/hour and while doing so, zero in on and launch a missile at a target 20 km away! We were allowed to take photographs, but only if we promised not to publish them on social media.